Yugoslav POWs to be released
U.N. humanitarian mission arrives in Belgrade
May 17, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two Yugoslav prisoners of war being held by the United States will be released, perhaps on Monday, the Pentagon has told CNN.
Details of the prisoner transfer are being worked out, the officials said. The initial plan was to turn the prisoners, who are in Germany, over to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
White House sources said early Monday that President Clinton has not yet received a recommendation from Defense Secretary William Cohen which would authorize the prisoner release, but they said the recommendation might simply be a formality.
Meanwhile Sunday, U.N. humanitarian officials arrived in Belgrade to assess civilian needs across Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, after 53 days of NATO bombing.
It is the first U.N. visit since before NATO's air campaign began. Yugoslav officials have assured delegates that they will be free to move within the country during their 10-day tour.
"We are worried about the hundreds of thousands that are said to be on the move" in Kosovo, said Sergio de Mello, head of the delegation that includes representatives from the World Food Program, World Health Organization, UNICEF and the High Commissioner for Refugees.
Intense diplomatic efforts are planned this week to seek a solution to the Kosovo war.
German Chancellor will head to Italy and Finland on a Kosovo-related diplomatic mission, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will visit two of Yugoslavia's neighbors, Albania and Bulgaria.
On Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana predicted the ethnic Albanians who fled Kosovo will be able to return home by winter.
"We will see ethnic cleansing reversed," Solana told CNN. "I think it will be before wintertime, no question about that."
But in Greece, a NATO member where the airstrikes have been unpopular, rockets attacked the residence of the German ambassador Sunday, according to the Greek public order ministry.
The ambassador and his wife were not at home, and there were no casualties. No one has yet claimed responsibility.
In Washington, Cohen said as many as 100,000 ethnic Albanian men of military age are missing and "may have been murdered."
While reports indicate that 4,600 Kosovar men have been executed, he said, "I expect it's far higher than that."
Cohen said a total of 1.5 million ethnic Albanians -- out of Kosovo's pre-conflict population of 1.8 million -- have either fled the region or been displaced internally.
Yugoslavia has denied allegations that its military has committed mass executions, calling the charges NATO manipulation of Western media. Yugoslav authorities also blame the NATO bombings for the diaspora of ethnic Albanians.
While the Yugoslav army announced last week that it would remove some of its forces from Kosovo, an army spokesman said Sunday that troops cannot withdraw because of continued NATO bombardments.
"Under such conditions, clearly it is impossible to carry out the grouping for the partial withdrawal of army and police forces," said Col. Milivoje Novkovic.
But despite the bombardment, Novkovic said, the army is using a "phased approach" to pull out some units.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea dismissed that claim as "perverse."
"It's like an alcoholic blaming a whiskey company for his problem," Shea said.
At NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, NATO military spokesman Maj. Gen. said alliance planes flew 539 sorties late Saturday and early Sunday, primarily striking the areas of Junik, Prahovo, Beljevac, West Rogovo and Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina.
Jertz said NATO will continue to focus its airstrikes on Serb forces in south and southeastern Kosovo, though the presence of Kosovo Albanians near some installations "complicates our military missions."
Yugoslavia said 87 ethnic Albanian civilians were killed by a NATO attack Thursday outside the village of Korisa. However, Shea suggested Sunday the civilians may have been placed there by Serb forces to be used as human shields.
"I want to make this crystal clear: I have no evidence of this, but there are a number of Kosovar Albanian sources that have spoken about people being taken down from the hills and being concentrated in that particular location," Shea said.
He said NATO has heard for weeks, from many ethnic Albanian sources, "stories of young men ... being taken away and placed at factories, at production plants, at airfields, at military bases."
Yugoslav officials, who said no military units were in the area, called the allegation "crazy," according to Serbian media.
U.N. delegation heading to Yugoslavia
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